Kira Lewis Jr. passed Devonte ‘Graham in rotation should be considered ahead of Pelicans-Magic matchup

The New Orleans Pelicans are in the midst of their worst skid of the season, having lost seven of their last 10 games. However, there is a chance to steady the ship with a showdown in Orlando against the Magic tonight.

The Magic have hung near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings all season and are 3-7 in their last 10. Before this stretch, however, they have posted eight wins in nine games. That included a couple of W’s on the boston celtics.

There is talent in Orlando and it all starts at forward. Paulo Banchero (21.1 points, 6.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists) and Franz Wagner (20.3 points, 3.3 assists, 1.7 three-pointers) lead the promising youth movement. It’s questionable that Wagner will play with a sprained left ankle, but there are other pieces to be excited about.

Bol Bol is blossoming into the first prominent role of his career and has started 32 of 39 games. As a starter, he is averaging 12.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks, shooting 58.3% from the field and 38.7% from 3-point range.

Rounding out one of the highest starting lineups in the league are Wendell Carter (15.8 points, 8.6 rebounds) and Markelle Fultz (12.2 points, 5.6 assists).

In the last ten games, the Magic and the Pelicans have aware almost identical offensive and defensive ratings. The absences of Brandon Ingram, Herb Jones and Zion Williamson have been deeply felt during a difficult part of the schedule.

While Williamson and Ingram have already been ruled out, Jones is listed as questionable to play; however, another prominent name was added to the latest injury report. Naji Marshall is questionable with pain in his right big toe.

Once again, the focus will be hands-on regardless of the availability of Jones and Marshall, although there could be a spark on the Willie Green bench.

Kira Lewis Jr. has appeared in meager minutes in six games, but has shown far greater skill than a teammate sitting above him on the depth chart.

Devonte’ Graham has been in a lot of trouble since early December and his shot is showing no signs of life. In his last 24 games, his icy shooting percentages (31.6% FG%, 23.6 3PT%) really stand out because that’s his main responsibility.

In 46 minutes of action, Lewis has made exactly half of his field goal attempts, 40% of these 3-pointers, and all eight free throw attempts. It’s obviously the smallest sample size, but for a team in need of a shake-up, Lewis could help.

These are considered the dog days of the NBA calendar. Teams are over half the games played and the All-Star break is still weeks away. Role players, especially those not used to big minutes, are dealing with heavier legs and probably some mental fatigue as well.

New Orleans’ reserves have done a masterful job thus far, but many of them have been pressured to play a bigger role. In the last matchup against the Heat, Miami looked infinitely fresher. Better preparation and attention to the game plan would have helped, but also the addition of energy and confidence.

Graham’s downfall couldn’t have come at a worse time. However, Green is not entirely without options. Giving the regular backup guard some time off to reset while taking advantage of Lewis’ high-revving engine could pay immediate dividends.

The Pelicans need to find a way to stay afloat in the West until reinforcements arrive. They have fallen to fourth in the rankings, so deviating from the status quo should be considered.

Who: new orleans pelicans (26-18) in orlando magic (16-28)

When: January 20, 2023, 6:00 p.m. CT

Where to look: Bally Sports New Orleans, League Pass

Where to listen: WRNO 99.5

For more pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed at itunes, Spotify, stapler either Google podcasts You can follow this author on Twitter at @OlehKosel.

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